I jumped back in terror! and then laughed...
One day, I was walking down a woodland path, enjoying the sun shining to my left onto the pond, and the peaceful sounds of the breeze rustling through the leaves overhead. Suddenly, I saw a huge snake to the right side of the path, its head held up at an angle ready to strike. My heart pounded in my chest for a millisecond and I leaped back in terror. My actions were instinctual and rapid. I took no time to analyze or think through my motivations.
However, once I had jumped back, I stopped and noticed that the “snake” was not moving. In fact, as I searched for its eyes and flickering tongue, I saw gnarled bark and knots in a length of strangely-shaped wood. I let out a nervous laugh, sighed and relaxed. My gait slowed and I walked peacefully by knowing, “It’s just a stick.”
Actions and behaviors are simply a reflection of underlying beliefs. When people know better, they do better. “It’s a snake!” leads to jumping back in alarm, and likely avoiding that path in the future--and it's a perfect response in the right circumstances. “It’s a stick” leads to a peaceful walk.
That's why coaches don’t ask a person to change their behavior or design an action step until after the awareness shift has already taken place within your belief system.
While it may be gratifying for the coach to see behavior change quickly, it’s often more helpful to wait until we can observe that a new state of awareness has sunk in, at which point the aligned action will have a greater effect and be longer-lasting.
It doesn't make sense for me as a coach to ask someone to relax in the presence of what they believe is a snake. But I don't even have to ask once you know it's a stick.
What "snakes" are you seeing in your life? What else might you see if you slowed down and took a step back?